People at the Occupy Seattle protest (at meetings) and in the world at large (in the press, in sidewalk conversations) keep bringing up the fact that the protests haven't stated clear goals or a 10-point platform or something to explain why they're there. Some folks—including folks at The Stranger—have tried to put words in the protesters' mouths, to explain what they want.
Clearly, the protesters and their supporters are pissed off about income disparity in the U.S. and how enormous financial institutions were bailed out with taxpayer money while the taxpayers were simultaneously told to tighten their belts and get used to being broke and cold and hungry.
But people are pissed off about lots of other stuff, too—about the wars, about cuts to social services, about how the wealthy are more invested in exotic trading instruments (i.e., paying people to do fancy math) than the jobs they're supposed to be creating with all that money they can't figure out how to spend but we can't tax and re-invest in the American social structure that made it possible for them to get rich in the first place. People are pissed off about state surveillance after 9/11, about the drug war, about the cowardly and craven behavior of their elected representatives in both parties.
They're pissed off about the media and "the man" and racism and poverty and homelessness and school systems and the fact that the wealthiest nation in human history can't do a simple thing like make sure its people can get necessary medical treatment without going bankrupt and losing their homes—if they even have homes. We've already acclimated to the idea that, in the richest nation in human history, lots of people are homeless.
Some people complain about the broad bandwidth of the Occupy grievances—but that broadness, that ambiguity, is Occupy's strength. It's a testament to its necessity. People aren't putting their lives on hold, camping out, and risking arrest because one policy or another needs to be tweaked to make everything better. They aren't waiting for their municipal, state, or federal government to wave a magic wand and make everything better.
There is no panacea. There aren't just one or two or ten things wrong. That's the problem. That's why they're there.
The protesters are there because they're pissed that the United States of America—supposedly the wealthiest, the best-educated, the most can-do country in the world—can't do. Because the most of us are consistently asked to pick up the tab for the few of us who have much more money than we do, but keep telling us that they left their wallets at home. Or at Davos. Or at Bohemian Grove. Or somewhere.
Just because Occupy hasn't drafted a policy platform or a cure-all law doesn't mean its people shouldn't be out there expressing their dissatisfaction. Because in the U.S., people expressing their dissatisfaction isn't just a right—it's a duty.
At least that's what they taught me in civics class.
So don't dump on the protesters because they haven't collectively articulated a unified set of grievances. Maybe ask one what he or she would like to see change. I bet pretty much everyone at every Occupy site in the world will be able to give you an answer. The answers will be wide-ranging, but don't read that as an indication of confusion.
Read that as an indication of how much work needs to be done—how much work we need to do.